Each year the United Nations considers resolutions that seek to limit, control or eliminate the dangers that nuclear weapons pose to the inhabitants of the planet. In general, these resolutions can be described as nuclear disarmament measures.*
In 2007, in the 62nd General Assembly of the United Nations, 20 resolutions on nuclear disarmament were considered. Of these, five were not voted upon. Of the 15 resolutions that were voted upon by the UN General Assembly in 2007, only one country in the world, the United States, had a record of opposing all of them. It is an abysmal voting record, and the people of the United States should be aware of the dangerous and obstructionist role their government is playing in opposing a serious agenda for nuclear disarmament.
The votes of the nine nuclear weapon states are listed in the chart below. Countries were given one point for each Yes vote, zero points for each abstention, and a point was taken away for each No vote:
In three of the votes, the United States was the only country in the world to vote against the resolutions. The resolutions called for:
- Giving security assurances to non-nuclear weapons states that nuclear weapons would not be used against them;
- Supporting the Treaty on the South-East Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone;
- Supporting the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, to permanently end all nuclear weapons testing.
Four other resolutions had only three votes against, and in each case the US was one of the three. These resolutions called for:
- Supporting a nuclear-weapon-free southern hemisphere (US, France, UK opposed);
- Decreasing the operational readiness of nuclear weapons systems (US, France, UK opposed);
- A UN conference on eliminating nuclear dangers (US, France, UK opposed);
- Supporting renewed determination toward the elimination of nuclear weapons (US, India, North Korea opposed).
France & United Kingdom
The other nuclear weapons states had more positive voting records, although in the case of the UK and France, only slightly more so. Both France and the UK voted Yes on a resolution highlighting the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and on supporting for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The UK’s other Yes vote was on renewed determination towards elimination of nuclear weapons.
Russia & China
Russia’s sole No vote was on supporting the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the illegality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons. Of the five principal nuclear weapons states, China had by far the best voting record, casting no negative votes.
Israel, India, Pakistan & North Korea
The other nuclear weapons states, those outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, are Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. Israel cast only one Yes vote, on support of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. India, Pakistan and North Korea were more supportive of nuclear disarmament resolutions, voting Yes a majority of the time. North Korea did not vote on two resolutions.
Weapons in Space
One other aspect of UN voting on disarmament measures deserves comment, that of disarmament aspects of outer space. On the two measures on this subject, the countries of the world voted overwhelmingly in favor of keeping outer space free of weapons. The first vote was on prevention of an arms race in outer space. Out of 180 countries voting on this resolution, 179 voted in favor. Only the United States voted against and Israel abstained. On the second measure on transparency and confidence building in outer space, 181 countries voted. Again, only the US voted against the measure, and only Israel abstained.
In the area of nuclear disarmament, as well as in keeping outer space free of weapons, the US has shown itself to be an obstacle to progress. In a time when the world badly needs leadership toward a saner and safer future, the US has chosen to oppose progress on nuclear disarmament in many ways, including its votes in the UN General Assembly.
In many respects the US government has demonstrated by its votes in the UN General Assembly its disdain for the deep concerns of the vast majority of the rest of the international community as well as of the American people. Such behavior leaves the US and the world a more dangerous place and undoubtedly contributes to the extremely low level of respect in which the US is held throughout most of the world.
* The voting records of countries on these resolutions can be found in the Winter 2007 issue of Disarmament Times, a publication of the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security.
David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.